Publication Abstract

Authors: Pearlman DN, Clark MA, Rakowski W, Ehrich B

Title: Screening for breast and cervical cancers: the importance of knowledge and perceived cancer survivability.

Journal: Women Health 28(4):93-112

Date: 1999

Abstract: INTRODUCTION: This study examines the association between recent screening for breast and cervical cancers, knowledge of cancer risk factors, and perceptions of surviving cancer. METHODS: Data were from the Cancer Control Supplement to the 1992 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS-CCS). The dependent variable combined breast and cervical cancer screening practices into a single composite index. Two independent variables combined women's knowledge about breast and cervical cancers into single indicators--one representing risk factor knowledge, the other representing perceived likelihood of surviving breast and cervical cancers following early detection. RESULTS: Multivariate analysis showed that recency of screening for both breast and cervical cancers was associated with knowledge of cancer risk factors and perceptions of surviving cancer. Education, household income, and smoking status also were correlates of comprehensive screening. Significant interactions between income and perceived survivability, and between education and perceived survivability suggested that the effects of income and education on comprehensive screening varied with perceptions about surviving cancer. CONCLUSION: The study suggests that knowledge and attitudinal questions can be combined for two diseases to enhance understanding of who is most likely to be screened comprehensively for breast and cervical cancers. Although national trends show that large percentages of women over age 50 are having mammograms and Pap tests, this progress is not likely to be sustained unless existing barriers are eliminated. Limited knowledge about breast and cervical cancer risk factors and misperceptions about survival from cancer represent two of these barriers.